I often get asked if I play with James, and the honest answer is no, not really. I think people think because I am a stay at home mum I should be playing with James when we are in the house or creating activities for him, but I really don’t feel the need to. James has a great imagination and comes up with all sorts of games himself that keep him amused far more than anything I do with him can. I’ve tried setting up some playdoh for him and he was far more interested in the lids to the tubs than the actual playdoh. If I get crayons and a colouring book out it will entertain him for all of about 5 minutes and then he either starts drawing on the floor or loses interest and plays with something he wants to play with.
In the earlier days I felt more pressure to actually play with James, because I saw it as my job to keep him entertained. When James was younger he always wanted me to be in his sight, preferably holding him, which made doing things like cooking and cleaning very difficult. I would get his toys out and show him how to stack cups or help him do a puzzle, but he was far more interested in making up his own games. I also found that if I sat with him he would be far more reliant on me doing things for him rather than learning to do things himself. Cars were definitely the best toy I started to buy James because they entertained him for so long, and I really like watching the different ways he plays with them. He has recently started playing with dinosaurs, and arranges them in and around some stacking blocks as if they were dinosaur houses.
When other stay at home mums have asked me if I play with James, I am often met with relief when I say no, and they often admit that they also don’t play with their children either. I think as a stay at home mum there is an expectation that you are at home playing with your child and helping them develop. I find it far more enjoyable to take James out and spend time with him outside, rather than playing with his toys with him. Partly because I am not sure how James would want me to play with his toys with him, he seems to have his own ideas about what he wants to do.
There are occasions where James does want me to play with him. He sometimes gets a plastic bowl out of the cupboard and puts it on my head and goes around calling it a hat, and he also likes getting my yoga mat out and for me to do downward dog so he can pretend I am a bridge for him to walk underneath. Sometimes I will read him a story during the day, but other than that I tend to leave him to it. If I do try and play with him more, I am often pushed out of his playroom and on occasions he has even shut the door.
So what do I do with myself when James is playing? Well to be honest we aren’t actually in the house that much for him to play by himself, but when we are it allows me to get jobs done around the house. I can cook the tea, make a cake, clean, sort washing etc. I know there are often Facebook posts about how you should leave the jobs around the house and cherish the moments you have with your children, but for me it doesn’t work like that. I feel I need a clean and tidy house to feel happy in myself, and as James happily plays by himself I can get some of the housework done while he is awake, and not just during nap times.
I am proud that James likes to play independently and that he has the imagination to entertain himself. I think it is teaching him how to make himself happy and not to rely on other people for entertainment. I still think there is some pressure and expectation that I should be playing with James, but in my opinion I don’t think I need to just for the sake of it. Part of why he may be so good at playing independently is because a lot of the time we are out of the house, so when we come home he looks forward to playing with his toys because he hasn’t been playing with them all day, and he has had my attention while we have been out.
As parents I think we just need to do what suits us and our children. Some parents will really enjoy making up games and activities for their children, and their children will love it, which is great. There are days when I wish James did like crafts so we could make some things, but he just has no interest. Just like every child is different every parent is different too, with different strengths. My strengths are certainly taking James outside to visit different places where he can run around. Other parents strengths are making activities for their children to keep them entertained inside. If you are looking for indoor activities for children take a look at my friends blog, which has loads of fantastic ideas. I on the other hand will stick to entertaining James outside, and relishing his independent play when we are inside.